CRL, Loopback and things that can slow down code, and cause problems on servers with no internet access

I’ve run into a few issues in the past year or two that revolved around SSL certificates.

SSL certs usually get installed on your Web Front Ends.

As part of the whole grand scheme of how SSL’s work there is something called an CRL – a list of “bad” certificates that had to be “revoked”

If a hacker steals a Certificate for your bank and installs it on his server, and then directs traffic to his sever, your browser, all by itself, would not know the difference – this is where the CRL comes in – if the bank knows the certificate has been compromised, they can get it “Revoked” which puts it on the CRL, a sort of “black list” for bad certificates.

When the user at home opens his or her browser, part of the SSL authentication mechanism is that your browser checks the CRL list before allowing you to proceed.

This usually works just fine…

Unfortunately, with just the ‘right’ configuration, this can throw a nasty delay into network communications.

Here’s a scenario:

You have an SSL website.

Client PC’s connect to this SSL website from everywhere and everyone is happy.

A .Net developer writes some code to access content on the above server. Note here this is code running on one server (doesn’t have to be a web server) connecting to your SSL protected website on a different server.

What happens now is that the developers code “stalls” for about a minute as the server tries to access the CRL to see if the certificate presented by your SSL website has been revoked.

It stalls because the server the developer is running code on doesn’t have access to the internet (It can access your SSL website, because they are on the same internal network)

This can be an issue.

Ideally you’d fix the connectivity problem, but there may be times that’s out of your control (a demo laptop for example)

The next ideal fix would be a system wide fix like a global registry setting. This doesn’t exist.

Each app gets to decide how to deal with checking CRLS –

This article lists 14 different infrastructure pieces and how each is configured to disable CRL checking http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/964.certificate-revocation-list-crl-verification-an-application-choice.aspx

One personal observation I’ve made is that Google Chome doesn’t seem to care about the CRL – (link) so if you think CRL is a problem on your server, and you can install Chrome, you could then compare how long IE takes to bring up your web page from scratch vs Chrome.

I’ve used the script below to turn off CRL checking for .net code:

– Jack 

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